In the Midlands, it could be you

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The Independent Online

The luckiest place to live in Britain if you want to win the National Lottery is the Midlands, while the players least likely to win the jackpot are based in Wales and Northern Ireland, according to research conducted for the first anniversary of the game.

The National Lottery, which has taken pounds 4.5bn in sales in its first year, celebrated its unprecedented success yesterday. But lottery organisers also acknowledged it has attracted an equally forceful barrage of controversy for allegedly encouraging gambling.

Although the survey found that 89 per cent of people "approve" of the lottery, 40 per cent did not agree it is "a harmless flutter", and nearly a third did not agree it was a "really good thing for the country".

Among the most outspoken critics is the Church of England. Yesterday, the Rt Rev David Sheppard, the Bishop of Liverpool, called for an investigation into the lottery. "Gambling is being encouraged and artificially stimulated," he said.

David Rigg, communications director of Camelot, the lottery operator, confirmed that Gamblers Anonymous had a 17 per cent increase in calls. Camelot is to co-fund independent research into the lottery's impact.

Forty per cent play the lottery for fun. But a quarter, mostly in the 16-34 age group, are "big prize dreamers". More than 130 millionaires have been created, with 20 winning over pounds 5m and six over pounds 10m. The highest number of winners have come from the Midlands, where there have been 53 jackpots, followed by 50 in London. Only 13 claimed jackpots in Wales.

The lottery was defended by Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for National Heritage, who said the average weekly spend of around pounds 2 was "less than a packet of cigarettes". She denied it exploited those least able to afford it.